This is the Life: A question of free will

Click to follow
The Independent Online

I am going to make a new will. Whereas before I thought that I would leave my possessions, my share of the house and my meagre savings to my husband, it's suddenly dawned on me that it would be much more sensible to leave the lot to Wavell, my favourite cat. I mean, my husband is a resourceful man and can always look after himself, but what about my ginger tom's manifold needs? How will the beast survive without cashmere jumpers to despoil and a handmaiden to provide lap services?

I am going to make a new will. Whereas before I thought that I would leave my possessions, my share of the house and my meagre savings to my husband, it's suddenly dawned on me that it would be much more sensible to leave the lot to Wavell, my favourite cat. I mean, my husband is a resourceful man and can always look after himself, but what about my ginger tom's manifold needs? How will the beast survive without cashmere jumpers to despoil and a handmaiden to provide lap services?

There is a certain argument to say he will simply move two doors down where the central heating is permanently on and there are three plush eiderdowns to choose from. Come to think of it, he already lives two doors down and only returns here for meals, Newsnight (cats love Paxman like children love Teletubbies) and to have burrs and the odd lump of dried excrement plucked from his bushy tail. Now my lunar fit has passed, it is clear to me that the conniving mog must be stopped before he takes over the world. There: that path of mental reasoning only took a few minutes and already the men in white coats are departing.

And yet nobody took 89-year-old Margaret Layne to the sanatorium when she decided to leave a £350,000 detached house and a £100,000 trust fund to her cat Tinker. The trustees, Anne and Eugene Wheatley, even agreed that they would personally oversee Tinker's daily sardines and see to the house's repairs. This, despite knowing that in the event of Tinker's demise the entire estate will pass to them. Don't these people know how to lace a mouse with strychnine? Or does it simply come down to the fact that Anne Wheatley, a lady of mature years, shares with Margaret Layne a form of dementia peculiar to little old ladies: the fervent belief that cats are the most superior life-form in the known universe.

Frankly, these biddies are giving cats a bad name. Every time an ancient cat-lover leaves her savings to the Blue Cross, a seething, wheezing cat-loather turns his jet-propelled hose on the neighbourhood tabby. Only two weeks ago the papers told of a Canadian couple called Reid, living in a Cornish village, who trapped their neighbour's cat and dumped her (unhurt) in a local wood.

They claimed they acted to protect wildlife, but, if so, why transfer the rampaging beast to the leafy environs of Songbird Central? It's clear to me that the Reid's Aunty Ethel left the family pickle factory to Fluffy and this was a muted cry of rage against the entire feline race. To the editor of the Daily Mail with its numerous blue-rinse readers, it was a heinous crime that demanded the whole of page three to convey his full horror at this outrage (never mind the shell-torn children in Baghdad's hospitals).

Don't get me wrong. I like cats as much as the next person. No, let's be honest, far more than the next person – who, in my family in any case, is usually asthmatic. Over the past 10 years our small Cambridge home has been graced by anything between two and seven cats at any one time.

Our two current beasts are pedigree Maine Coons, both of which, I am ashamed to admit, cost more than a week's salary and came littered with health problems and pernickety dietary requirements. Yes, I admit it, we do buy them Tesco's Finest turkey breast slices and, indeed, we do talk drivel to them and, OK, we yield all the most comfortable bits of sofa and bed to their more pressing needs. Worst of all, I once told a friend how intelligent the tomcat, Wavell, is. "Great," he said, "there's a crossword clue here I can't work out."

Despite this incriminating evidence, I would classify myself as a cat enthusiast, rather than an obsessive. When my darling mother gave Wavell a Christmas present last year, on the grounds she had given gifts to my other siblings' children, I pointed out that if we truly thought of him as our baby, he wouldn't be sleeping in her freezing garage under the car. But it's hardly my mum's fault – the evangelical cat-worshippers have tainted all other owners with their hysterical passion. Look at Martyn Lewis, bombarding the public with good news cat books with the same beaming, lobotomised expression as the Hare Krishnas selling tracts on Oxford Street.

This consensus about the cat lobby leads casual acquaintances to the following (erroneous) conclusions: that I must be single, do not like dogs, prefer the Stones to the Beatles and coffee to tea. Even close friends can form the view that a cute kitten calendar or china ornament is an acceptable present. The truth is that I have cats because the garden isn't big enough for a pony and dogs need too much exercise. As for my husband, it's fair to say that he prefers cats on the whole to people – but then he'd put his rose bushes above most of humanity.

Comments